Rhode Island Meets First Benchmark in Ambitious HIV Treatment Campaign

Neighborhood Health Plan of Rhode Island
Rhode Island Meets First Benchmark in Ambitious HIV Treatment Campaign
RIDOH unveils interactive free condom locator map to prevent spread of HIV, other STDs

Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH, Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH), announced today that Rhode Island has met the first target of the 90-90-90 initiative, a global effort aimed at ensuring that, by 2020, 90% of people living with HIV will know their status; 90% of people living with HIV will be engaged in HIV care; and 90% of people living with HIV will have viral suppression.

The announcement that 93% of Rhode Islanders who are HIV positive know their status was made at a World AIDS Day event held at the Rhode Island Foundation. The event was sponsored by the Rhode Island HIV & STI Prevention Coalition.

In 2015, Governor Gina M. Raimondo and Mayor Jorge Elorza made Rhode Island and Providence the first state-city partnership to join 90-90-90. Other cities that have joined include Atlanta, Miami, and San Francisco.

More than 2,600 Rhode Islanders are living with HIV. Estimates indicate that there are approximately 300 Rhode Islanders who do not know they are infected with HIV. The total number of people living in Rhode Island with HIV is estimated using advanced epidemiological modeling. Individuals with HIV who are connected to care can receive medications that control their virus levels. This not only improves their own health, but means they are also less likely to spread HIV to other people.

Rhode Island 90-90-90 Data Update

  • Goal 1: Know HIV status – 93% of those estimated to have HIV have been diagnosed, up from 88% in 2015
  • Goal 2: Engaged in HIV care – 71% in care, up from 60% in 2015
  • Goal 3: Have viral suppression – 65%, up from 56% in 2015

“If someone is living with HIV, getting diagnosed is the first, crucial step toward the treatment and care that can help that person live a life that is long, full, and completely healthy. Meeting the first target of 90-90-90 is a testament to the tremendous HIV collaboration happening throughout Rhode Island,” said Dr. Alexander-Scott. “However, more work needs to be done to get people engaged in care and get people’s viral loads suppressed. In part, this means getting at the underlying factors that create additional challenges for some people living with HIV, such as unstable housing, behavioral health issues, substance abuse, and discrimination. Everyone in Rhode Island absolutely has the right to be as healthy as possible, no matter their sexual orientation, gender identity, race, ethnicity, level of income, or insurance status.”

Rhode Island’s progress toward its 90-90-90 targets is the result of collaborations between many organizations who provide critical HIV prevention and education services, including the Executive Office of Health and Human Services’ Ryan White Program, AIDS Care Ocean State, AIDS Project Rhode Island, Project Weber/RENEW, Community Care Alliance/AGAPE, Thundermist Health Center, The Miriam Hospital, and University Medical Group/Roger Williams Medical Center.

Condom Locator Unveiled
To help ensure that Rhode Islanders have access to condoms, which are a safe, effective way to protect against HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), RIDOH unveiled an interactive condom locator map at the event that allows people to find sites where condoms are available for free. The map can be found at health.ri.gov/findcondoms. The venues on the map, which is being promoted as part of a multimedia HIV/STD prevention and testing information campaign launched by RIDOH in November, include community organizations, AIDS services providers, college and university campuses, and bars and clubs.

In 2016, RIDOH distributed 432,000 condoms by 110 dispensers located at 85 unique locations and community events statewide. So far, in 2017, RIDOH has distributed over 395,000 condoms at a growing number of locations statewide.

In addition to helping prevent the spread of HIV, condoms can also help prevent the spread of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis. The number of cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis have all spiked in Rhode Island in the last 10 years.

Rhode Island Initiatives Supporting 90-90-90 Progress
RIDOH and its partner organizations promote health equity and the right to health at every level of the HIV care continuum, including testing for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases; pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), a daily pill to prevent HIV; partner notification services; and wrap-around services to promote linkage to and retention in HIV care. Specific initiatives include:

  • RIDOH funds several community agencies to provide free and anonymous rapid HIV testing. As of November 24th, RIDOH partners AIDS Care Ocean State, AIDS Project Rhode Island, and Project Weber have conducted 2,060 rapid HIV tests in 2017, up from 1,750 rapid HIV tests at this time last year in 2016.
  • When an individual is newly diagnosed with HIV, RIDOH’s Partner Services Program talks to patients to identify other individuals who may have been exposed to HIV (through sexual contact or needle sharing) and to help get their partners tested.
  • RIDOH provides grants to five schools (Central Falls High School, Lincoln Middle School, North Kingstown High School, Segue Institute, and Woonsocket Middle School) to improve the environment and opportunities for young people to be healthy. The grants also provide health teachers with a curriculum and resources to help them address sensitive sexual health topics.
  • As the state and nation continue to battle the overdose epidemic, RIDOH continues its strong commitment to funding ENCORE, the state’s needle exchange program run by AIDS Care Ocean State. ENCORE has distributed 84,275 clean needles so far in 2017, up from 74,539 needles at this time last year.
  • If someone with HIV stops taking medications to suppress viral loads, RIDOH’s Return to Care Program reaches out and helps those people address the barriers that prevent them from staying in care.

For more information on HIV prevention, testing, and treatment, visit http://health.ri.gov/hiv.